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CM Does CMW 2018 – The Hotel Lobby

Wednesday, May 16th, 2018

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Stage psychologist, performance coach & Canadian Musician contributor Luther Mallory on one of the most important & valuable aspects of Canadian Music Week: hanging in the hotel lobby.

I saw cool shows at CMW and I went to some good panels with some smart speakers. CMW is a well organized, world-class music conference. There’s nothing terribly exciting to report.

So I get thinking about my topic for this blog and I consider covering how many bad-ass rap artists are coming out of Nova Scotia like Quake Matthews, Kayo, Corey Writes, Mitchell Bailey, etc. – some of whom played Saturday night at the Rivoli.

As an artist, though, and now an “industry person,” I’m more interested in what I spent the week noticing in the hotel lobby at the Sheraton Centre, where everyone is hanging out in between panels and performances. It’s more interesting than any of the shows or panels. It’s a better blog topic, too, and a better read for artists.

It’s a human problem, rooted in self-doubt – the fear of rejection, of not being cool, of having to sell yourself. Networking.

Networking is one of the hardest skills to master because it will get you further than any other skill. The gods of success have set it up that way – the hardest skills will bring you success the fastest. It’s a way to weed out the weak and let only the truly serious through the gates.

And there are two sides in the hotel lobby – the industry people and the artists. The artists think the industry people are more important than they actually are, and the industry people don’t give enough credit to artists on the way up – only those that have already proven something. (I’m generalizing.)

I get a text on Thursday at around 2 p.m. from an artist from Alberta that I coached a few months back asking me to “be his Yoda” at CMW. I ask him what he’s up to and he says he’s at the hotel having a drink. I ask him if he’s made any new contacts or met anybody and he says he hasn’t because he doesn’t have business cards.

“Interesting,” I think. I would have happily made the same excuse at his age to conveniently avoid the discomfort of having to sell myself and risk rejection in the presence of an industry person.

I tell him his CMW showcase is much less important than networking with everyone – anyone.

And that’s true. In a sea of artists playing showcases, there’s little benefit beyond having your name in the program. And most of these artists are only here hoping they can get an “industry person” to show up at their showcase.

But you can easily meet that industry person in the hotel lobby, make a personal connection, and develop that relationship. What, your live performance is so bananas that you’re going to get signed on the spot right after your showcase?

And the industry is doing the same thing – they roll with each other in a bubble. The assumed power dynamic is that the artist needs the industry person, so the industry person waits to be approached by the artist. But, that’s not actually true. The industry person needs the artist, but the artist does not NEED the industry person. The industry is built on the art itself, not the people distributing the art.

There are totally independent artists making careers with little help from the industry. There are no companies in the music industry doing anything without involving artists.

CMW is gold for artists and industry people. It brings everyone together in one spot – and that spot is often the hotel lobby – but only the bravest artists will approach and risk rejection, even though there is really nothing at stake.

For artists, CMW or any other conference is about the hotel lobby, not the showcase. Be less afraid to shift the paradigm and say hello to a new person. Stop thinking the industry is something big and scary. The hotel lobby is full of knowledgeable and connected people that will almost definitely be willing to offer some help or advice to any artist willing to extend a simple greeting.

Stop acting like every interaction could make or break your one chance at a record deal. Do you really want one of those anyway?

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